Michael Bay‘s commentaries are great entertainment. He never disappoints with his tracks. He’ll tell you when someone wasn’t doing their job. He’ll tell you when he had to yell. And he’ll always tell you when he was “the first” to use a new camera, government aircraft, or whatever super-expensive new toy he got to play with.
If you want to know how Michael Bay became Michael Bay, these commentaries give you a good idea of how he reached his level of success. While not included in this month’s recommendations, it should go without saying you should listen to the Armageddon and Pearl Harbor audio commentaries. Ben Affleck is on fire in both. The Pearl Harbor track is hours of Affleck making Josh Hartnett giggle.
Below, check out our five Michael Bay commentary recommendations.
Bad Boys (Featuring Michael Bay)
Why Listen: The filmmaker reflects on the experience of his first movie as he’s about to shoot Pearl Harbor. He looks back on his first feature with fondness and honesty. The studio, for instance, was not the biggest supporters of Bad Boys. Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson, Bay, and his stars believed in the movie – but the studio did not. Bay even had to pay $25,000 out of pocket to get a shot he needed. How do you deal with a studio who doesn’t have much faith in your film? Bay talks about that at length in the track for his debut film, which he sometimes has trouble watching, especially during a car chase that can’t even begin to touch Bad Boys II‘s highway chase sequence.
What’s Said: At first, the crew didn’t have much faith in Bay either, but he eventually won them after taking advice from Bruckheimer:
They looked at me like some 28 or 29-year-old kid who didn’t know what he was doing. I did shoot this movie, I guess, in a non-traditional manner. A lot through the process I’d hear, “This isn’t going to cut, this isn’t going to cut.” Jerry Bruckheimer had a good idea of showing them scenes I started cutting, because you need to show them the movie does cut and how it’s working. When I did that, that’s when I really got the crew on my side. It’s frustrating when you’re a director and got all these people saying, “You can’t do that, you can’t do that.” There are no rules to film. That’s the first rule. You can break rules, and you can make rules.
A Day on the Job: Joe Pantoliano is a great actor, and made for one fun, disgruntled police chief. He lightens both Bad Boys movies up, which he might’ve done with an acting trick or two – which, Bay wants to make clear, he isn’t dissing:
I think I was experiencing, as a feature film director, my first, what you would call an actor trick. Now that I’ve done three movies and worked with many movie stars, every actor has an acting trick. They know how to play you to get more shots, to get a close-up, and just do little tricks. In this scene, Joe didn’t want to stand behind Martin, because he didn’t feel it worked, but what I saw between the lines…I told Joe, “We have to do this in one shot. I don’t have the money or the time. They’re going to shut me down. It’s too big of a set to re-light.” We had a semi-fight, with Joe saying he’d feel more comfortable on the other side of the desk. I said, “Joe, we can do with you behind him.” I think what Joe really wanted was a real tight close-up. I’m telling you, this happens all the time with actors.
Actor tricks aren’t a bad thing, Bay says, but “they’re all fighting for screen time.”
Trivia: Jon Lovitz and Danna Carvey were originally going to star in Bad Boys. The studio later wanted Arsenio Hall as Mike Lowery, but the filmmakers pushed for Smith.
The Island (Featuring Michael Bay)
Why Listen: Bay’s least action-heavy 21st-century movie leans a little more on character, especially in the first hour. The filmmaker doesn’t tend to talk a whole lot about acting or story in his tracks, but they’re given more attention in this one. If you want a sense of how Bay approaches storytelling, go with this track. It’s also the first instance he talks about his single failure. The Island was a hit overseas, but underperformed in the States. He blames the marketing, which didn’t sell the movie as well as the film’s foreign distributors. He’s frank about its reception and how it was sold, as he is about most subjects.
What’s Said: Bay’s movies, being big budget and all, have a lot of product placement. Sometimes it fits, too, like inventor Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) being a Bud Light kind of guy. In The Island, characters are playing Xbox, one of the movie’s many pieces of product placements. For Bay, it feels right, not cheap:
There are people that think some of the product stuff in this movie, they thought we were whoring out the movie and making a commercial. Let’s face it, guys, the world is focused on products. Products surround us. For us to think, in the year 2019, that were still not gonna be focused on products and labels from every different vantage point is just unreal. It’s not a true world. So, that’s my statement for people who have given me a hard time for thinking I’m whoring out the movie and just making a big advertisement.
A Day on the Job: The director likes to get in on the action and operate a camera. He’ll put himself at risk to get a shot:
Right when Ewan McGregor takes a chain and whacks a guy [during The Island chase], there’s a low-angle shot by the truck, and that’s where I almost lost my life. A pole came by my head at about 45mph. I will often operate from very dangerous camera positions because I operate a lot. I had my little camera, was leaning against the guard rail, and at the very last moment, another operator way down the way told me to move my head 12 inches, so I’m not in the shot. Lo and behold, I shot this thing – great shot – and attached to the wasp’s ass is a gigantic metal pole I did not see [coming]. It went right by my ear. I guarantee you if I did not move when my cameraman told me to move, I’d be dead.
Trivia: The story was initially set 100 years in the future. Typically the more futuristic a movie is, the more expensive, so The Island became set in 2019.
The Rock (Featuring Michael Bay, actors Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and Technical Advisor Harry Humphries)
Why Listen: Nicolas Cage. The Cage, first and foremost. Bay is his typical candid himself, but here, take a long glimpse into the mind of Nicolas Cage. In interviews, the actor usually doesn’t reveal too much about his method – he likes the mystery – but in this instance, he explains it in depth with some funny stories and insightful comments; he’s one of those actors who seems to know as much about storytelling as he does acting. Bay and the other participants are great, but Cage is fantastic on this track.
What’s Said: Cage uses The French Connection and his co-star from Birdy, Matthew Modine, as reference points for Stanley Goodspeed. Another performance Cage channeled? Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws:
One of the shades I wanted was really similar to Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, when he’s going through the breakdown of the shark attack victim in the beginning. “Do not smoke in here!” I remember it came out most clearly when I said, “Do not move that [when Mason is holding the chemicals].” I remember I sat here with Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and played Jaws for them. I said, “Look at this, this is how we can make Goodspeed more interesting, by making him really into his work. I admit I steal from other places. I think actors should be allowed to do that.
Cage later told Dreyfuss about this at the Oscars, but he got the impression Dreyfuss thought he was just “blowing smoke up his ass.”
A Day on the Job: To say Cage is a big Elvis fan is maybe an underestimate. The singer has influenced the actor’s work more than once. Even in The Rock, Cage found himself inspired by the King during his interrogation scene with Sean Connery:
That day I was telling Sean about Elvis Presley. There was a story going around that Evlis was into chimpanzees and two-way mirrors, because there’s a two-way mirror in this scene. He would send a groupie in, in white panties, and go, “[Elvis impersonation] Why don’t you go in there and wrestle with that chimp in there?” Then he’d watch the girl wrestle with the chimp. Sean just started cracking up [hearing this story]. The delivery of “Why don’t you take those handcuffs off, please?” was really coming from that [Elvis story]. I know that sounds bizarre as hell, but you know, sometimes these ideas come from strange places.
Trivia: Nicolas Cage’s father, a brilliant professor and “radical thinker,” influenced Stanley Goodspeed. It was Cage who decied to name the character Stanely.
Source: Slash Film